Forest Bathing

Being in the Present Moment

No, this isn’t a clever way to reduce water usage during drought conditions. “Forest bathing” or as it’s called in Japan shinrin-yoku, has now been clinically proven to reduce stress and improve human health. We gardeners and wildflower lovers have always known this, but the Japanese have perfected the art of shinrin-yoku (There are 48 official “forest therapy” trails in Japan.) And Western Science has documented the effect on humans through clinical research. In its most simple form, forest bathing is just about getting out and simply being in nature…being in the present moment.

An article or book on forest bathing pops up every couple of years…The New York Times wrote in 2010. The current issue Outside magazine has an entire spread: “Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning.”  Outside whimsically describes a forest bathing session: “…You stroll a little, maybe write a haiku, crack open a spicebush twig and inhale its woodsy, sassy scent. People come out of the city and literally shower in the greenery…” Research is documenting that the health effects of forest bathing include reduced blood pressure, reduced cortisol levels, an increase in white blood cells, and an increase in natural killer cells. One study found over a hundred different essential oils in forest air.

Based on ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices, shinrin-yoku recommends a mindful approach to bathing in the forest and focusing on experiencing the forest through all five senses.  If you’re caught up in the busyness of urban life and have to stop a second to try to remember what the five senses are….it’s time to head for the forest!

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Hundreds of Vegetables

Preparing Your Garden for What You Really Need

The holiday season always involves lots of cooking. Each time I’m shopping for food I find myself thinking, I could have grown that.  A big winter squash cost me $5 the other day. And paying $2 for parsley that practically grows itself suddenly seems crazy.  As I think about January resolutions for dieting and really like the Plant Nutrient Dense Diets, I’m kicking myself for not having more vegetables still harvestable or in the freezer. So next to my grocery list on the refrigerator, I’m making my list of the vegetables I’m buying so that I have a more rational way to make a list of seeds to buy to grow for next year’s vegetable garden.

Things I wish I coulda woulda shoulda grown more of:

Beets.  Several parties I’ve been to have had roasted beet dishes. So yummy and easy. And beets are nutritious and great juicers. With a little extra mulch protection, they survive most of the year I should have at least two beets per person per week of the year. I need at least a hundred beets for me.

Carrots. Such a good juicer as well as cooked vegetables…I need at least three carrots per person per week.  150 carrots just for me.

Onions.  Duh, Another easy to grow plant that I use almost every day….4 onions per person per week is 200 onions.

Tomatoes.  It wasn’t a great tomato year so it’s not surprising I’ve gone through most of my stored tomatoes already.  I didn’t notice how often I rely on diced or stewed tomatoes in my recipes.  I need at least 2 16 ounce cans of chopped tomatoes per week.  100 “cans” of chopped paste potatoes.

Cooked Greens.  This year I preserved kale and chard and collards by steaming them and then freezing them already cooked.  I’m eating twice as many greens now than usual because they are already cooked and ready to be served as a side dish or added last minute to soups.  Cooked, frozen greens:  At least 3 pounds per person per week. 150 pounds of greens.

Peas.  I love peas. Why don’t I have more in the freezer or dehydrator? One pound of peas per week. 50 pounds of peas.

Fruit.  Frozen and dehydrated fruits are my favorites in winter.  I’ve gone through all but two jars of my tart cherries.  I was tired of picking and pitting cherries in the summer….but now I’d happily do that work since I can’t buy any tart cherries now.  I should have a pound per week of fruit preserved for the winter per person.

 Parsley and Celery. I love cooking and juicing with both of these. I’m completely out of both and they are just great sources of nutrients.  I need at least 50 “bunches” of parsley and celery chopped and frozen or celeriac in the frig/root cellar.

Rosemary. For the first year, I have enough rosemary. I bought one of those rosemary Christmas trees.  I love to roast vegetables with rosemary….so now I pick up the plant and use the scissors to keep snipping the plant back into the Christmas tree shape.  I get at least a couple of tablespoons per trimming…finally enough rosemary.

So that’s my lesson this week.  If I want a diet full of plant nutrients and I don’t want a huge grocery bill, I need to think of my vegetable garden as a source of HUNDREDS of vegetables and plants. I’ve never really noticed how many vegetables it takes to have a nutritious diet.

Another way to think about it is…let’s modestly say you need five vegetable and fruit servings per day.  Here in Colorado, we have about 4 months of non-growing seasons. So five servings per day x 30 days x 4 months means I need to have at least 600 servings of vegetables and fruit PER PERSON preserved in cool storage, cans or the freezer by December 1st if I want to grow my own food. WOW. All I can say is thank you to all the farmers who have been providing this for me my whole life!

Quick Potluck Meals From Your Garden

Heirloom Vegetable Recipes

by Sandy Swegel

Last night I went to our annual culinary gardener’s potluck holiday party.  When you have good organic produce you’ve grown yourself, the flavors are so much better than standard grocery store fare, it doesn’t take much work to make potluck meals everybody loves.  The vegetable provides most of the flavor!

Some of last night’s easy dishes:

Roasted vegetables.

Sweet potatoes cut in 1-inch chunks, marinated in olive oil and lots of rosemary and garlic. With the oven at 425°, bake on a cookie sheet (not a deep dish) 45 minutes. Turn halfway through.  The cookie sheet lets the heat slightly crust the pieces of sweet potato. This works for butternut squash too.

Beets, small quarters, marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, roasted to soft perfection. Oven at 350, about 30 minutes depending on your beets.

Kale, sliced in quarter inch strips, sauteed in coconut oil with sesame seeds, cranberries, cashews and lemon juice. Saute nuts first then lightly saute kale till tender.  Turns out a beautiful bright green color with red highlights.

Apples, small quarters or eighths, soaked in mulled wine and apple cider, then simmered to tenderness. Dust with cinnamon. Serve as a main course side, not as dessert.

Very thinly julienned beets and carrots, in a vinaigrette sauce with pomegranate seeds and tiny mandarin orange pieces.

Quinoa, cooked and mixed with well-sauteed thin slices of red chard, buffalo mozzarella cheese and blue cheese and bits of chopped pistachios.

All these great dishes were healthy and intensely flavorful. It’s really not difficult to cook good vegetable-based dishes for potlucks or for our nightly meals.  It’s the reward for a long season of gardening in a hot drought year.

What Kind of Holiday Season Person are YOU?

My Favorite Gift Giving Tips

by Sandy Swegel

Are you the kind who is frantically looking around for inexpensive gifts to bring to a party you’re going to tomorrow night?  Or perhaps you’re the kind of person who had your holiday shopping and decorating done by Thanksgiving evening and now you’re relaxing in your lovely cinnamon and pine scented home.  I’ve always wanted to be the latter person but I still resemble the frantic running late person too often.

So here’s what I’m doing today to meet the needs of the person I am today.

Last-minute gifts for gardening friends who love to cook:

Herb-infused olive oils: 1 bottle of organic olive oil. Fresh Mediterranean herbs: lots of rosemary including the sticks, moderate amounts of thyme, lesser amounts of oregano. Cute decorative bottles. A handwritten label with a note that it needs to age another two months before use. Curly Ribbons in beautiful colors.

Last-minute gifts for friends who like to drink: Limoncello! Same bottles, ribbons and labels as above. Limoncello can be ready in only 20 ish days. So label accordingly or give it as gifts on Christmas Day. Ingredients: Vodka, on holiday sale at the liquor store, organic lemons fresh from warmer places in the grocery.

Last-minute gifts for friends who don’t cook or drink: Calendars with exquisite pictures.  My favorite this year (2013) for gardeners/mystics is the Flower Spirits Calendar.

And Now the Gift for You and Me because We can plan ahead: Indoor pots full of young lettuce and spinach. In only three weeks you’re going to be making New Year’s Resolutions and eating healthy. Right now the thing to do is get your greens seeds and make some windowsill pots of young lettuces and spinaches and kales.  On January 1st you’ll have pots full of organic baby spinach mixed greens that you have to pay a fortune for in the grocery.

More Gift Ideas for Gardeners

Wellness Gifts for Gardners

We’ve covered some of the books and tools that I think every gardener should have. Now mind you, gift certificates are almost always the best gift for the gardener in your life because they get to choose.  And of course, we think BBB Seed gift cards are the best possible gift especially because you can get it at the last minute without leaving the house. But today’s gift ideas for gardeners are really for the gardener and not for the garden.

Here are some good products for the gardener’s health and well-being that are my daily friends:

Stainless Steel Water Bottles BPA free and insulated, good water bottles will help keep the gardener hydrated.  It takes a lot of discipline to drink enough water to compensate for working hard in the garden. Chronic dehydration from not getting enough water when you need it contributes to a variety of health problems. Do what it takes to hydrate your gardener.

Sunglasses My eye doctor read me the riot act when she found out how much time I stay outside without sunglasses. Always. I’m not likely to take her recommendation of only 15 minutes of direct sun per day, but after hearing about increased risks of cataracts and macular degeneration, I agree high UV sunglasses is a good idea. Pick a light gray tone for best true color. Here’s a great article on sunglasses.

A Good Hat Pick one that lasts, protects your face, and can get washed. Wallaroo hats are my favorites and attractive too. They have a great collection of SPF 50 hats for men and women and kids.

A Full Body Massage No matter how much stretching and exercising I do, my body is out of whack by the end of the season.  My right side back muscles are over-developed. My rotator cuffs are tender and my body has been spending too much time bending forward and not enough bending backward.  A professional massage straightens me out again.

A pre-season gift:  A manicure Your gardener may not be the manicure type, but most of us gardeners enjoy touching the soil and the plants and we leave our gloves in the bucket too often.  There’s always a bit of dirt under our nails and our hands are, um, rugged.  This becomes obvious the first holiday party I go to and put on a nice silk blouse and the silk snags on my fingers!  Winter is the perfect season to treat the gardener well. You can seek out a professional manicure or do it yourself at home with our “Hand Rescue” salve.

Want to see what gardeners’ hands look like?  This is a fabulous art montage by photographer Paul Debois:  43 Gardeners’ Hands.